That Movie Book

That Movie Book – Week Twenty Three

Sorry I’m a bit late, the public holiday messed with my schedule as only a public holiday can. This weekend’s theme was “Nicolas Cage: loser at large”. A weekend of Nic Cage being Nic Cage, a weekend forecast to be good movie-watching weather, sounded like a perfect match. Then I watched some of the films and was reminded that I don’t actually like  Nicolas Cage’s acting that much. I guess that’s one of those things that I forget about when I associate him with bird hair.

(isn’t it glorious?)
 

But I didn’t realise that when I started out. So, on Saturday I watched The Weather Man. David Spritz (Nicolas Cage) is a local weatherman who is the son of a famous author. His marriage has failed, his kids are messed up, things are falling apart but he has the chance to be a big shot weatherman on a big shot morning show and make everything better.

 

I figure the film was supposed to echo his life, where there’s not real highs or lows in the plot, and what peaks and troughs there are has David just stumbling through it all. I can see what was tried to be said, but to me it just was kinda bland and boring. I guess I kinda missed the point of the film in that regard, but for the most part I was just wondering when this movie was going to get interesting or just be over. David is suck an awkward character that it made it pretty uncomfortable to watch and I hate those kinds of films.

That being said, there were some funny bits. Michael Caine’s really dodgy American accent was funny (in a distracting way), and there were some of the interactions between Nic Cage and his family that made me laugh aloud.The thing is that for most of the amusing parts it was either unintentional or the other actors that were the funny ones. So this film was not what I was expecting, and not really encouraging me to watch any more.

 

But I figured I would try again on Sunday, with Adaptation. This is the film about Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) and his struggles to write a screenplay based on a book about orchids. Meanwhile his twin brother Donald (also Nicolas Cage) is also trying to become a screenwriter as well, playing to Hollywood stereotypes rather than originality. After a while Charlie tries to write himself into the screenplay to show the obsession that he, the author of the book and the main character of the book all seem to have about their respective subjects.

 

The film starts off with Cage having a stream of conscious ramble about himself and how pathetic he is. Not a good sign. I got so sick of the self loathing and self deprecation that Kaufman embodied that I tended to check out whenever Nic Cage was on screen. At one point Ben looked over when the Kaufman brothers were both on screen. “There are two of him. Why are there two of him?” I explained that they were twin brothers, and he just gave a little sigh. “Of course they are” he commented before turning back to his computer. That’s pretty much how I felt about this film. The storyline with the author and the orchid specialist was much more interesting to me, and thankfully the second half of the film focussed on them (albeit with some Kaufman interruptions) so I didn’t turn it off and actually watched it to the conclusion. I am almost certain I’ll never watch it again, though. Fuck that.

My main problem with the film was that it really just felt like Charlie Kaufman (who is a real screenwriter and who wrote this film) was trying to show how clever he was with all the stories within stories and the way he plays with the ties to reality. It sounded interesting to see how it played with that, but ended up more kinda wanky. Plus the whole meta story of “A man writes a movie about himself struggling to write a movie who inserts himself into that screenplay to try and write the movie.” was a bit ham fisted at times and obvious and annoying.

 

So because that was two for two that I didn’t like, I didn’t bother with any of the others suggested for this theme. They were, if you have the inclination to watch them, Lord of War, The Bad Lieutenant, and Leaving Las Vegas. It’s a bit of a let down when things don’t go well on the movie front, but I guess I’m never going to like all the films suggested over the course of the book. Par for the course and all that. I’m going to Melbourne this weekend, so the next lot of reviews might be a bit late (or early), but I’ll try hard to watch something and do a write up anyway.

That Movie Book – Week Twenty Two

 

This week’s theme was “It’s Not A Weekend, It’s A Wrinkle In Time: how to time travel (according to films).” The weekend was forecast to be rainy and miserable, so I figured it would be a good time to smash out a few of the suggestions. I watched… two out of the five films. Better than nothing, I suppose, seeing as I felt like sleeping the whole weekend away instead.

 

I started out on Saturday  with Back to the Future. Teenage boy meets up with his crazy inventor friend one night and inadvertently travels back in time 30 years in said friend’s time machine Delorean. While waiting a week before he can go back home he has to make sure his parents actually meet and get together so that he doesn’t fade out of existence.


(I know the quality’s not great on this, but I thought the original trailer would be the most appropriate to use.)

I wasn’t really that interested in watching this, if I am honest with you. My brother would make me watch this (and the sequels) so many times over the years, and I am the kind of person who will not enjoy something out of spite when someone tries really hard to get me to watch/read/listen/do something. So because I’d seen it so many times and had that particular association with it, this felt like a bit of a chore. But I figured I’d give it another go for old time’s sake.

I guess the different atmosphere made a difference, because I actually enjoyed it this time. Maybe because I paid attention to it instead of sullenly trying to ignore it. Some of the acting was kinda wooden, but Michael J Fox was actually pretty good in it! I kinda always thought he was a good actor, especially now seeing how he hides his Parkinson’s quite well. I still never really got the whole hype about the trilogy, and probably won’t watch the others in the trilogy, but I did like the film.

I think I liked the storyline of the second Back to the Future film better. This one was a good intro to the characters and the series’ universe, but out of the trilogy the second film was the most interesting to me story-wise. I guess I’m a sucker for futuristic settings, even though by now that one is so hilariously incorrect and dated. That’s probably what adds to its charm. The first film was cute in that the 50’s seemed like a much more innocent time, but what people thought it would be like in 2015 is also cute in its own way.

 

On Sunday we watched Twelve Monkeys. It’s the future, and a virus has caused humans to go underground to survive. A prisoner ‘volunteers’ to go back and forth in time to get information about an organisation that claims to have created the virus.

 

I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like this film. I didn’t really know anything about it, but I had a strange hunch that it wasn’t going to be my thing. Ben liked it and seemed excited aboutit being a suggestion though, so I figured I would at least give it a try. My first impression was that it most definitely was a film by Terry Gilliam. He seems to have a very definite set of things he likes to include when making a film, so all the movies I have seen that he’s done feel very similar. I think it’s mainly the kinda dirty, dystopian future where everything looks like it’s about to fall apart that I noticed more than anything else. It’s like Tim Burton with Johnny Depp and swirls; you know once you see those two things in the one film that it is almost certainly a Burton Film. And I guess I just don’t really like the look of everything seemingly held together by duct tape.

Also it seemed that it took a while to get to the ‘good bit’. I watched about an hour of it waiting for Bruce Willis’ character to get to where he needed to and still didn’t get there in that time. I’m sure that’s all part of the pacing or whatever, but it just resulted in me getting bored and wanting things to pick up a bit. After an hour I realised that I had pretty much stopped caring about any of the characters and hadn’t been paying attention to it properly for a while, so I turned it off. I’m a bit disappointed because the storyline sounded interesting and I could have potentially really enjoyed it, but I guess I’m just not a fan of Terry Gilliam’s style enough that it distracted me too much to try and tough it out. Ben is probably Very Disappointed that I didn’t like it, but I tried! I watched almost half of it! If a film hasn’t grabbed me by the halfway mark I feel like it’s time to try something else.

That was it for the weekend, it seems. Next week is one of the themes I have been looking forward to a fair bit. That’s right people, Next weekend is Nicholas Cage weekend in this house. My mum is going to be visiting, but I am going to try and watch three of the suggestions anyway.

That Movie Book – Week Nineteen

This week’s theme was “Male? Female? Other? a weekend of gender-bending”  It seemed quite an appropriate theme for this week considering what has been happening in America with Obama and New Jersey, and also in Argentina. Gay and Trans rights have had some victories and some setbacks; it seemed a curious coincidence that the theme was to do with the issues facing this part of the community. Maybe Marc Fennell is psychic and knew this was going to happen. I guess we’ll never know. Anyway, on to the films.

 

First up I watched Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Hedwig is a German post-op transexual who tells her life story and how she came to be here at a series of punk rock shows to generally uninterested audience members.

Hedwig is a film I have seen people raving about and linking clips from and generally loving, and I felt that maybe if they all enjoyed it so much then I probably would too so it seemed a fairly safe choice for this week’s viewings. It was… not what I was expecting at all. Ben and I both thought it was going to be kinda light-hearted, so when it turned out to be a strange, confronting, confusing film we both didn’t really know what to make of it. The book said it took a little bit to get going, but even then it was not really my cup of tea. The story was a pretty tragic, but I feel like the outrageous way it was presented gave a sense of disconnect and I kinda spent most of the movie a little confused and wondering where it was going and when it would end.

It was an interesting film, but I couldn’t say that I enjoyed it. It’s interesting because I didn’t overtly dislike it, or dislike it enough to turn it off, I just didn’t like it that much. I liked the story in that it was a subject that should be addressed more in mainstream media, and the actors were interesting, it was just a bit too abrasive for me to say I liked it, but not abrasive enough to turn it off. It was like a puzzle; I felt like if I could work out the secret to the film then I would start enjoying it, but I couldn’t work it out. It made me think about what it is that makes me enjoy films, and why I watch them. Obviously I watch things for entertainment value, but since starting this challenge I have started watching more films that I wouldn’t normally watch and don’t necessarily like, but still feel like I should give them a chance. They may not be completely enjoyable but it feels like I have completed a step towards becoming more open minded in my viewing habits. But then I go and ruin that by watching terrible cheesy British TV shows. I guess it’s a slow process.

Perhaps part of the issue was that I couldn’t really relate to the characters. Hedwig was such an interesting, complex character with such a strange history, but because she was so different there wasn’t really anything at all I could try and have in common with her that I didn’t have any sentimental attachment to her and because of that, no attachment to the movie.

 

Next up was Transamerica. Bree is a pre-op transexual who is a week away from making her bits match the rest of her. Out of the blue she finds out that when she was in college, and still a man, she fathered a child who is now 17 and working on the streets. Her therapist convinces her to go meet him and that meeting results in the son thinking Bree is a missionary and they end up on a road trip back to LA together.

This probably would have been a better film to start the weekend with. It addressed a lot of the themes that Hedwig did, in terms of the challenges trans people face, but it is done in a lighter way that makes it easier to comprehend and digest. It’s a more mainstream film than Hedwig’s more avant-guarde style. Also, the actors were really good. Really good. They broached and dealt with a subject that could have been a big old downer, but handled it with a sense of humour that balanced nicely with the more serious parts to make it well rounded. I think I would say that I enjoyed this film, even though it was still pretty sobering as a topic. Felicity Huffman was nominated for and won a fair few awards for her role as Bree, and I feel like they were well deserved. Transgender people may disagree with me though, I don’t know how much my opinion on a woman’s portrayal of a trans woman is worth when it comes down to it.

It did make me think a lot about how messed up the situation is. It’s really rubbish that even if Bree had a loving, accepting family who supported her throughout her transition, the rest of society would make it hard for her in a number of ways. She obviously doesn’t, so that is another hurdle she would have to leap. I was able to relate to parts of the film more than I did with Hedwig, which might also explain why I enjoyed it more, but it was still mostly something I couldn’t relate to as a straight person who is comfortable with the gender I was born with. I think that’s a sign of a well made film that even though I am very different to the main characters I still felt an emotional attachment to them in a way. So I guess that means I think Transamerica is a better film than Hedwig. Yeah, that sounds like something I am comfortable in saying. They both were good films in that they tackled a difficult subject, but for me I feel that Transamerica did it in a way that was was gentler in introducing the issues to the viewers and because of this may encourage more people too look into these things.

Basically this weekend made me really sad that I have it so much easier than these people. It might be partly because I used to work with people who were very heteronormative, but after watching these two movies I feel guilty that I haven’t been as supportive when it comes to that part of the community. I guess I just wish it was a bit easier for them. Being transgender must be hard enough as it is without being judged by strangers as you walk down the street.

The other suggestions this week were Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Crying Game and Boys Don’t Cry. I felt like the two I chose were a good choice, to be honest. I have seen Priscilla plenty of times so I figured that could be given a miss, but with the other two I felt like I had made myself feel guilty enough as it is with just two movies, any more and I’d get really depressed with the world. Next week, to celebrate Mothers Day happening in parts of the world, is about awful mothers. See if you can work out what the five films might be from that. Hopefully next week won’t result in my rambling for 1200 words with no real purpose.

That Movie Book – Week Eighteen

This week’s theme was “Some Of My Best Friends Are Black: a beginner’s guide to interracial clashes”. The movies suggested this week were given as examples of films where interracial couples or situations where there is a cultural clash are dealt with in an interesting way or are done well. Most of the time these kinda of situations have a white person with their foreign friend/coworker being used as an example of how Wacky the other culture is. This week is supposed to help shift away from those clichés to something a bit more realistic.

 

Once again, I only watched one film this week. But it was definitely a good one, so I felt satisfied with just seeing that one. On Saturday I watched Lost in Translation, one of the films I have been meaning to watch for ages but never got around to. A bored wife and an ageing movie star staying at the same hotel in Japan become friends when they realise they are both equally alone and confused by the place they are in.

I really liked this film, and I was a bit worried I wouldn’t because of the slow pacing. I can be a bit fickle when it comes to those kind of things, but it seemed to work well enough for this film that I enjoyed it rather than getting bored and turning it off. It’s a delicate balance. Anyway, the two main characters were so beautifully sad and flawed that I was intrigued by their interactions. One thing I was really glad about was that they didn’t sleep with each other. The idea of two people who don’t really fit in finding each other and just being friends is much more interesting to me than two people who don’t really fit in meeting each other and falling in love but never being able to be together because of Reasons. The second storyline has been done to death, and having them just be friends was probably a more realistic situation as well. I know that they do fall in love or whatever, and kinda wanted to sleep together but never did, but I am choosing to ignore that bit because I am so sick of that whole “a woman and a man are friends so they much want to fuck” deal in films. In media in general.

It is interesting to think about how such an intimidating place Japan can be to outsiders. It’s one of those places that you either embrace fully or will never really understand. Charlotte (Scarlett Johannson’s character) seems like she tries to experience the various cultures in Japan and seemed to be interested in some of them, but at the same time she never really seemed to fit in. She also didn’t explore the parts she liked further. There was a superficial interest in the whole thing, but she doesn’t seem to really want to look into things more because she doesn’t really want to be there. There are scenes which show her trying out Japanese things, but most of the times she looks bored, or lost. I can sympathise with her a bit, though. She doesn’t really know what to do with her life and now she is left alone in a strange place where she can’t understand anything, which makes her feel even more lost than she would have felt anyway.It makes sense that she would have reached out to the only other person she’s really met that seems as out of place as her.

One thing that annoyed me in a way was that neither of them really tried that hard to fit in or make things easier for themselves and others. They both seemed to not speak Japanese at all (which is a bit frustrating seeing they’re in Japan), and Bill Murray’s character very obviously makes fun of the Japanese people who try and talk to him. Maybe it was supposed to play on Bill Murray’s comedic skills, or his character not wanting to be there, but it really felt like all those people who go overseas and demand the other countries to speak English. A lot of Australian people do that and it makes me embarrassed to be vaguely associated with those kind of people, so it irritated me that I was reminded of those kind of people. I liked the characters a bit less because of this; they were kinda culturally insensitive and selfish. I guess that makes them more rounded as characters, in that they’re not perfect, but it was just something that took me away from the film a little.

 

The other films suggested this week were Borat (a British comedian pretends to be from Kazakhstan and makes a pretend documentary about America), Silver Streak (a black/white buddy comedy that apparently did it quite well), Zorba the Greek (a British Author goes to Crete to try and fix his writer’s block and befriends a Greek labourer while there, and 2 Days in Paris (A French/American couple stop over at Paris to visit the French lady’s family). I was going to watch 2 Days in Paris on Sunday night, but I think Lost in Translation gave me enough to think about. Next week looks at the issues of gender. There are two I have been meaning to watch, so hopefully I’ll get to both and maybe some of theothers as well.

That Movie Book – Week Seventeen

This week’s theme was “Chris Nolan: Mastermind”. Fairly self-explanatory, five films directed by Christopher Nolan. I like the director themed weeks, because they are interesting to see the common themes or styles that occur in the different stories. This week, however, I only watched one film. Ben and I realised that we had both seen four out of the five suggestions, but I hadn’t seen the one Ben had and vice versa. Seeing we had one on dvd and would have had to download the other, I made the choice to go with the dvd.

 

So on Sunday I watched The Prestige. Two magicians in ‘Victorian England’ start as friends then turn into rivals, both trying to out-trick each other and get revenge for previous slights between the two of them. They become obsessed with outdoing each other which ultimately destroys them and the people they love.


I watched this a few years ago and loved it. I remember we bought it on a whim because it was one of those ‘three for the price of two’ deals and it sounded interesting enough. I don’t remember there being much publicity for it at the time and there was another magician-themed film out around the same time that did a lot of publicity so The Prestige seemed to be overlooked. I think that’s a bit of a tragedy because this film was really well done. I have tried to get Ben to watch this for a while (he read the synopsis on wikipedia when I first told him about it, so he knew the twist and subsequently didn’t care any more) but he really didn’t care for it. He watched a bit before going back to his computer because it was boring. I on the other hand was really excited to watch it again because it had been a few years since I watched it last and remembered enjoying it a lot.That being said, the movie doesn’t really work well with multiple viewings.

Once you know the big twist at the end it is interesting to go back and see the clues throughout the film, but it also makes it a bit boring. There’s not really any mystery to keep you watching. Add to that a few dodgy accents (David Bowie, I’m looking at you) and I didn’t really connect with it like I used to. It’s interesting because I still feel like it was quite a well made film that dealt with obsession and the lengths that people go to fulfil that obsession. The actors were very good and I did appreciate the complexity of the roles. The story was interesting in that all the threads were tied up neatly and in a way that still kept you wondering how it all worked. The film had the three acts of a magic trick that were mentioned in the film: the pledge, the switch, and the prestige. It was entertaining; I just didn’t seem to care any more once I knew the end.

I guess that ties in with what was said throughout the film. Once people know how the trick has been done they don’t care about the trick any more. Magicians should never tell their secrets to people because it ruins the magic. So I guess in that respect the film had another layer to it and made it that bit more complex. But I don’t know if that was intentional; it probably wasn’t. I’m pretty sure most film makers don’t make a film just to be watched once.

 

The other suggestions were Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (we’ve both seen these and didn’t feel like watching them), Inception (seen it, have it but couldn’t access it because itunes is dumb) and Memento (Ben has seen, I haven’t, would have had to acquire it). I feel like maybe I should have watched Memento instead this week. Reading the description it sounds interesting but I was just super lazy this week. This whole Movie Book Challenge I decided to do has started getting a bit tiring. I’m going to keep it up because I still like doing this, but sometimes I am just sick of watching movies and want a week off, or want to watch silly trashy films instead. Next week is about ‘Interracial Clashes’, so we’ll see how I go with that one.